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Should the Giants get the benefit of the doubt in left field?

The Giants seem to have an awful lot of confidence in Mac Williamson and/or Jarrett Parker. Should we be paying more attention?

Atlanta Braves v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Giants are almost certainly going to open the 2017 season as underdogs in the National League West. There are a lot of reasons for that, but the main one is that the Dodgers have won four straight division titles. Also, there’s the overlooked part about the Dodgers probably having better players. The Giants will need to claw for every last win if they want to overtake them, which means they should be interested in improving every possible roster spot before the 2017 season.

The Giants are almost certainly going to open the 2017 season with Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson sharing time in left field.

Those would appear to be conflicting paragraphs.

However! This brings up some scenarios that are worth remembering. Please note that at this point I’m just saying things out loud until I believe them.

In 2012, the Giants opened the season with Brandon Crawford as the starting shortstop, and there was no competition for the job. I thought this was, perhaps, the dumbest roster move of the offseason. Crawford was going to be 25, he hit .204/.288/.296 the year before, and he had a career minor-league line of .266/.331/.403, with just 29 games of Triple-A experience. He was going to fail, and the flames were going to raise global temperatures by several degrees.

I am pleased to report that Crawford was fine. He became a, uh, whatchamacallit, franchise cornerstone. He finished 12th in MVP voting last year and won his second Gold Glove.

In 2014, Joe Panik was the ninth-best prospect in a widely panned farm system. He didn’t hit much the season before in Double-A, but he started the season hitting .327 for Fresno, and it became obvious in a post-Uggla world that the Giants needed to try him, but it’s not like anyone was super keen about the idea of Panik as an unquestioned, no-doubt starter.

I am pleased to report that Panik was fine. He hit over .300 and helped the Giants win a World Series with one of the best defensive plays in World Series history. He became an unquestioned, no-doubt starter, and I’m expecting a big rebound season from him.

In 2015, the Giants didn’t give the job to Matt Duffy. They made one of their worst deals of the decade, trading for Casey McGehee, so it’s not as if this is a pattern of the Giants believing in their young players when no one else will. If McGehee hit even .270, Duffy might still be considered a utility player to this day. But it most certainly is an example of the Giants creating an above-average player out of twigs and mud again.

While I am pleased to report that Duffy was fine, I ... I still can’t talk too much about him. I wonder if he still thinks about McCovey Chronicles, too.

Long point short, here are some homegrown position players the Giants have brought up since 2010:

  • Brandon Belt
  • Brandon Crawford
  • Joe Panik
  • Matt Duffy

All of them exceeded expectations. And now ...

Conor Gillaspie

He sort of exceeded expectations too, in a roundabout way.

Brett Pill

Roger Kieschnick

Hector Sanchez

Juan Perez

Nick Noonan

Johnny Monell

Charlie Culberson

Ryan Lollis

Jackson Williams

Okay, fine, point taken. They’re not all All-Stars and regulars. I’m not suggesting that the Giants have enough magic dust to sprinkle on all their position players. But it’s not like any of the players in the second batch were given a starting job, either. The players in the first list were, and they exceeded expectations.

Which is a long-winded way to get to my point. The Giants are giving a job to Mac Williamson and/or Jarrett Parker. They’ve announced this is their plan, they’ve repeated their intentions, and they’re sticking to it. This is curious because of the win-now conundrum they’re in, and also because those two players are projected to be passable, at best. Parker’s top ZiPS comp is Ty Gainey, and Williamson’s is Steve Stanicek. You get bonus points for knowing who either of them are.

But is it possible that we’re overlooking the Giants’ recent success with the homegrown players they’ve picked to start? Should they get the benefit of the doubt whenever they decide that a player is worthy of a regular role?


Oh, heavens, no, I’m not going to answer that question. Sorry. I hope you weren’t expecting me to answer that with any authority. At least, I’m not going to pretend to know the answer. Because I’m torn, see. I’m a little scarred from looking like such a dingus with Crawford. And while I was okay with — and even advocating for — Panik, Belt, and Duffy, it’s still impressive what they became relative to expectations.

At the same time, this isn’t the best season in which to gamble with a position that’s usually reserved for sluggers, thumpers, and whompers. The Giants are close, real close, to having an elite roster on paper. Their best hitters are all turning 30 this year or next. Johnny Cueto is almost certainly going to opt out of his contract at the end of the season. If there were ever a season to go, go, go for it, this is the one.

The only thing stopping me from a full blog tantrum, though, is that when the Giants have said, “This guy. This guy, right here. He’s the starter now,” it’s worked out. For whatever reason, they see something in either Williamson or Parker (or both) that’s made them comfortable in addressing the closer role with a Grade-A talent and leaving left field alone, rather than signing someone like Brad Ziegler and addressing left field with the savings.

With the benefit of hindsight and the Game 4 scars healing, it would have been my choice to go cheaper at closer and more expensive in the outfield. I was high on Melancon dust, as were some of you. Sorry about that. As is, the Giants are pretty confident in their left field situation. While I’m not, I’m pretty confident in the Giants’ internal evaluations, so I keep going back and forth.

In other words, that indefensible and brilliant Brandon Crawford decision from the 2011-2012 offseason will mess a fella up for years. What were the Giants thinking? That’s not a rhetorical, angry question. I’m really dying to know what they were thinking, because they nailed it. Please, tell me what the Giants were thinking. It seems like it might be the answer to baseball. And it’s making me almost optimistic about Williamson and/or Parker, even if that runs counter to most of the available evidence.

(Unless they’re just totally out of money.)

(Which could be the Occam’s Razor explanation, I guess.)

(But don’t be a downer.)